Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Spending Power of Parish Councils

For anyone who thought that parish councils are an insignificant blip on the local authority landscape, without the money to do anything worthwhile, might be interested to know that the total amount of money raised through the Council Tax for all of the country's parish councils for 2012/13 will be £384m, and increase of 4.6% on last year's £367m.

The average Band D Council Tax precept issued by parishes was £47.74 (this year, Shilton's was just under that at £45.52 for a Band D property).

Whether the parish tier provides good value for money for that £384m can wait for another day!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Participatory Budgeting in NYC

Anyone who's been following Shilton Parish Council over the last few months should hopefully be aware that it's looking to launch its participatory budgeting pilot project very soon. I spoke about it at the Annual Parish Meeting in April (which prompted sufficient interest that two people immediately submitted ideas as to what the £1,500 allocated to the project should be spent on!)

But June will see the official launch, with a feature in the upcoming June/July edition of BASIS (which I'll reproduce on this blog). I'm also hoping to generate some publicity in the local newspapers, but we'll have to see how interested they are in a local parish council trying out something different and innovative.

Until then, I thought I'd whet your appetite with a five minute video from a participatory budgeting project run by New York City Council. Now, Shilton may only be putting up 0.1% of the $1.5m that New York has, but I hope you see enough of the principle of participatory budgeting in action to get you thinking as to what you'd like to see local taxpayer money being spent on where you live.

What is evident from the film is the public involvement and engagement that participatory budgeting has generated in communities that might not otherwise have been interested in what their local council was doing. I'm hoping the same can happen in Shilton and Barnacle.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Parish Council Meetings - 8 May

On Tuesday night I attended two meetings of the parish council - its AGM, immediately followed by its regular monthly meeting.

The AGM was the first meeting of the 'new' year, and our first meeting following the local elections held on 3 May. As such, we welcomed Kelly Smith to the meeting as a new parish councillor (our other new councillor, Dave Redgrave, was unable to attend because of a prior work commitment). Kelly and Dave replaced Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall, both of whom had decided to retire from the council after many years service.

The AGM appoints the Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the parish council for the next 12 months, and it was a great honour for me to be nominated by fellow councillors to be our new Chairman. I have taken over from Bill King, who has served the parish council as Chairman for the past decade. It was fitting that councillors immediately paid tribute to the dedication and commitment shown by Bill over many years in what can be an onerous (and often thankless!) role. Councillors then voted for Stephen White to become Vice-Chairman of the parish council for the next 12 months.

We then commenced our 'regular' monthly meeting. Three residents from Church Road, Shilton had attended the meeting concerned at a decision the parish council had recently taken not to replace a street light near to the entrance of the public car park in Church Road that had been damaged following a road traffic accident. This had prompted significant concern from residents in the area, worried about pedestrian and traffic safety caused by the darker environment.

At the time it made its decision, the parish council had been concerned that the cost of replacing the street light (£1,000 - £1,500) would need to be met from taxpayers because the driver responsible for causing the damage had not been identified. However, further discussions with Warwickshire Police's Safer Neighbourhood Team had now identified the driver concerned, and a claim against his insurance was being pursued. This, coupled with the strong desire from Church Road residents for there to be a street light at this location, led councillors to reverse their earlier decision and now agree that it should be replaced.

This incident provided a reminder to us all of the impact that the parish council's actions can have on local residents, and the importance of improving the awareness and understanding of the decisions that we make.

Councillors then welcomed borough councillor Chris Pacey-Day to the meeting. Chris had been elected the previous Thursday to represent the new 'Wolvey & Shilton' ward on Rugby Borough Council, and although he's still very new to the role, it was pleasing to see him stay for almost all of the meeting and getting up to speed with the important issues locally. The parish council also took the opportunity to place on record its thanks to Tony Gillias and Rachel Watts for the help, advice and support they had both provided whilst they were borough councillors representing the area.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with our regular items of business: reviewing the correspondence received during the last month, authorising expenditure and noting income, considering a planning application at a business unit on the Kiln Way industrial estate, and receiving updates on other on-going projects that the parish council is involved with.

Finally consideration was given to the notice board in Shilton. This needs updating and replacing, and the Shilton Village Hall Committee had recently been in touch to ask the parish council to help. We will be talking to the village hall committee further about agreeing a better site to locate the notice board, as well as arranging for a more suitable cabinet to be installed.

The next meeting of the parish will be held on Tuesday 12 June at 7.30pm.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Planning Application Consultation

A new planning application has been submitted by:
  • Unit 2, Shilton Industrial Estate, Kiln Way, Shilton - change of use from office/workshop to vehicle repairs, external alterations including new workshop door and 2.4m high palisade fencing and gates (part retrospective).
Full details on the application (including site plans) can be found here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Wednesday 16 May.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Rugby Borough Council Election Results

Despite there not being any elections for Shilton Parish Council this year, elections were held yesterday for all 42 seats on Rugby Borough Council. These 'all out' elections were held because the borough council had recently re-drawn its ward boundaries and reduced the total number of members who sat on the council from 48 down to 42.

Shilton and Barnacle, which was formerly in the Fosse ward, is now part of the new 'Wolvey & Shilton' ward, and is represented at the Town Hall by just one councillor (rather than the previous two). The counting of the votes for all 42 of the new seats was carried out this morning, and by lunchtime it was announced that the Conservatives had won 25 seats, Labour had won 10 seats, the Liberal Democrats had secured 6 seats, and one seat had been won by an Independent.

This result means that Rugby Borough Council will remain in Conservative control until at least May 2014, when elections are next held.

The individual vote totals for all of the parties contesting the 42 seats (and the change in the share of their vote from May 2011) was:
The Conservatives will undoubtedly be both pleased and relieved to retain control of the council, given that the party lost a total of 328 councillors, and control of 10 other councils, in the local elections across the whole of the country. The lack of any significant change in their share of the vote may be partly explained by the fact that they were the only party to stand in all 42 seats (Labour stood in 27 seats, and the Liberal Democrats only managed to field 20 candidates), but it's a testament to the strength of the party locally - when others appear to be struggling for candidates and activists - and one which has reaped its reward.

Within the new Wolvey & Shilton ward, the result was:
Congratulations to Chris, who I know will take an active interest in Shilton Parish Council matters.

Finally, it was a mixed night for the two councillors who previously represented the former Fosse ward. Tony Gillias was re-elected as a member of the 'Revel & Binley Woods' ward, whilst Rachel Watts was unsuccessful standing in the 'Newbold & Brownsover' ward. I wish them both well for the future and thank them for all they've done for residents in the parish during the time they've represented the area.

Full election results for all 17 wards on Rugby Borough Council can be viewed here.